So it goes… Death and Collectible Value…


This week, we lost folks from this earth. It is the same old story, over and over. We live, we love, we leave. Those left behind are left behind grieving and empty. While death is simply a part of life, “the debt that we all must pay” according to National Treasure (paraphrased from Ecclesiastes), it occurred to me recently that we really don’t buy that. Dying is not something that most of us generally think about that much I would assume. We all know it’s coming, but man is it a shocker when it actually happens. No matter how many times we see it and no matter how many people die, it is always the same. We are shocked by death!

If death is the end for all of us and happens literally thousands of times a day, why is it that markets react at all to this already known ending of a life on Earth? I am not saying that investors shouldn’t react when say a Steve Jobs dies mind you…  Of course, fluctuations in value are going to take place when a “Key Man” passes away.  We even sell “Key Man” insurance policies for just this sort of tragedy!  What I am wondering is why death causes prices for autographs and/or rare mementos to fluctuate in a short-term manner as always happens???  Whether it is Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Nixon or John Glenn, the minute a famous personality passes away, prices jump for their autographs on eBay, ABE etc…

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John Glenn was a great man by almost all accounts.  He was a true national hero and won the hearts of an adoring American public for over six decades by simply being true, honest, brave and intelligent.  I suppose his boyish good looks had a little to do with it also…  Glenn was always a great autograph signer! He autographed for fans in person and via the mail. He was generous with his time and good to his many fans. He signed a lot of stuff… He was 95 years old when he passed away earlier this week. Did we not think that his “debt” would catch up to him at some point?  Why should the value of his autograph spike this month only to correct itself next month?

This sort of collectible market reaction is not new. There is nothing shocking about my saying that this happens. The question is why?  In this age of the super-intelligent collector and easy access to information, there shouldn’t even be a blip. Autographs rise or fall in value over time, just like most other tangible pieces of collectible personal property. Haven’t we all seen it enough to simply pay our respects and move on.  Glenn’s autographs are going to be around forever. They will be bought and sold and sold again… I know it sounds counter-intuitive coming from an autograph seller, but let’s stop being crazy about this stuff. It’s ok to buy and sell autographs, but try to remember that market fluctuations happen following death.

Buy and sell smart out there!

“So it goes” – Kurt Vonnegut

Mike Cotter

The Transforming World of Collectible

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